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Houston Going Greener With Expanded Electric-Car Sharing Program

Houston will be expanding and upgrading its use of electric vehicles through a ride-sharing program featuring Zipcars, officials announced today.

Under the proposed "Houston Fleet Share" program, officials say, "50 city-owned fleet vehicles -- including 25 Nissan Leaf EVs and other plug-in electric and hybrid vehicles -- will be outfitted with Zipcar's proprietary car sharing technology for use by city employees across numerous departments."

The technology will make it easier for employees to reserve a Zipcar for use on official business, ostensibly meaning there won't be as much fumes and gas spewed into the hitherto pristine air of Houston.

"Houston is setting the pace for sustainability efforts, and we are very proud to be working with Zipcar to launch the nation's first-ever municipal EV green fleet sharing program," Mayor Annise Parker said in announcing the new effort. "Although we've always been known as the oil capital of the world, we're gaining momentum on being the energy capital through programs like Houston Fleet Share and the Houston Drives Electric initiative."

Houston says it currently has the third-largest municipal hybrid fleet in the country, with more than 800 vehicles fitting that category. About 50 percent of the City's "nonspecialty, light-duty fleet" has been replaced with hybrid vehicles, officials say.

The three-year deal will eventually involve 300 drivers across 13 city departments and is funded by the State Energy Conservation Office American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (SECO-ARRA) Transportation Program (SEP).

Details:

The City of Houston now will be able to design and configure its fleet footprint in real time for optimal utilization; manage hundreds of critical activities including preventive maintenance, fueling, billing, and fleet distribution; analyze usage and diagnostic data, automatically captured during every trip; and utilize Zipcar's robust, experience-driven analytics to stay on top of trends, ahead of situations and in control of its fleet.

But you already knew that, we're sure.

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Here's more detail from the fleet director:

Cars previously were assigned to departments to use as common use or pool vehicles. The tracking process was manual and people had to schedule with someone in the department to use the vehicle.

The new Fleet sharing web-based program eliminates the need to have someone manually track the reservations of the vehicles and keeping the keys for the vehicle. The shared pool of vehicles can be used by the users assigned to the pool of vehicles. The system allows someone to make a reservation in advance for a planned city business trip, or you can access the reservation system and see if a car is available for a last minute trip.

Analytics and real-time data for Fleet will help reduce costs and right-size fleet because we will be able to balance our fleet, and reduce cars. This is the first municipal car-sharing system in nation to utilize this many electric cars, as well as hybrids.

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